Historic White House Meeting

Task Force successfully initiates first-ever meeting between White House and gay and lesbian leaders

‘History was made today!’

March 26, 2007, marks 30th anniversary of milestone gathering of gay and lesbian community leaders at Carter White House

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“What I remember most about the meeting was the sense of optimism and excitement that we all felt about presenting these issues formally to the White House. With Midge, it felt like we were really being heard and that our perspectives mattered. I felt that progress on these issues was inevitable that day.”Activist Charlotte Bunch

Read our press release about the March 26, 2007, press conference commemorating the 30th anniversary of the historic meeting and read detailed remarks from speakers at the press conference. Learn more about the gay and lesbian leaders who attended the White House meeting in 1977 on our "Then and Now" page.

The White House. A symbol and fact of political power in the United States and the world had never opened its doors to lesbians and gay men and straight allies until Saturday, March 26, 1977. More than dozen women and men entered the West Wing of the presidential residence to meet with Midge Costanza, the director of President Jimmy Carter’s Office of Public Liaison.

Heads high and carrying briefing papers on topics of concern and interest to lesbians and gay men around the country, National Gay Task Force co-directors Bruce Voeller and Jean O’Leary led the delegation into the Roosevelt Room where a three-hour briefing of presidential staff got under way. Later, one White House staffer noted that the group presented the most thoroughly prepared issue briefings he had ever heard. A press conference on the White House lawn followed the meeting, at which O’Leary proudly proclaimed, “History was made today!”

Members of the delegation briefed their hosts on discriminatory treatment of lesbians and gay men at the Internal Revenue Service, the Departments of Defense, Housing and Urban Development, Health Education and Welfare, the Federal Communications Commission, the Bureau of Prisons and the Immigration and Naturalization Service. They pointed out that the U.S. Civil Rights Commission took no interest in discrimination and prejudice against our communities and asked for support in passage of federal nondiscrimination legislation that would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in hiring, education and public accommodations. They included religious and family issues in their presentations and spoke of the pain and suffering of lesbians and gay men at the hands of church leaders and family members.

Following the historic meeting, Costanza arranged meetings between Task Force representatives and all of the agencies specifically named by the delegation, except the IRS.

But by June 1977, the IRS dropped its requirement that lesbian and gay groups applying for tax-exempt status agree not to assert that homosexuality is as morally upright as heterosexuality and not hold meetings at which homosexuals would gather and possibly violate state sodomy laws. By February 1978, Task Force representatives had met with government agencies officials from the Department of Justice, Immigration and Naturalization Service, the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, the Public Health Service and the Federal Communications Commission. The pressing needs of lesbians and gay men began to be responded to by our federal government — for the first time ever.